The Minister of Defense of South Korea, Shin Wonsik, made worrying claims: the nuclear water reactor at the main North Korean Yongbyon complex could become operational as early as next summer. This discovery, supported by indications from the UN Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and foreign experts, throws a new chapter in the geopolitical saga of North Korea and nuclear weapons.
Last week, the IAEA observed a significant increase in activity around the reactor, including a rise in temperature levels and a strong flow of water through the cooling system. This raises concerns because, in addition to highly enriched uranium, a water reactor can also produce plutonium, a key component for nuclear weapons.
North Korean activity did not escape the attention of South Korea either. Minister Shin confirmed the previously discovered work on the reactor's cooling system and estimated that it is currently in the test operation phase.
He warned that there is less than a year until the official commissioning.
North Korea's nuclear ambitions
The new reactor represents an additional source of material for potential nuclear weapons. Experts claim that its high capacity would enable a significant increase in plutonium production, which in itself raises considerable concerns about North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
And that's not all: Jongbyon already has a uranium enrichment facility, further intensifying the tension of the situation. This discovery occurs at a time when the attention of the world community is directed towards the North Korean nuclear program.
The IAEA and foreign experts will closely monitor developments, and the entire international community is aware of the potential consequences for global security. However, despite the concerns expressed, there is also a small window of hope.
The new reactor, although it represents a potential danger, may also open the door for negotiations. If North Korea decides to cooperate with the international community, the new reactor could be subject to international inspection and monitoring, reducing the risk of it being used to develop nuclear weapons.
However, in order to achieve this, diplomatic courage and willingness to compromise on both sides is needed. However, at this moment and with this global situation, this seems unreal. The next year on the Korean Peninsula will not be without challenges.